Mohsen Chavoshi - “Ye Shaakhe Niloofar”

Barbad Music (Iran)
2008 (1387)

Mohsen Chavoshi first appeared a few years ago as a Ghomayshi-soundalike in the UNDERGROUND music-scene with "Nefrin (unofficial title)", a song standing out due to its unconventional "hate/revenge" theme. The success was then followed up by 6 unofficial albums, circa 60 tracks released illegally with a similar dark theme in recent years. All these done apparently without Chavoshi's knowledge and authorization, however still leading to him having his application for a legal permit rejected and getting black-marked by the Ministry of Culture and Guidance. Meanwhile Chavoshi contributed to the soundtrack of the later banned motion-picture "Santoori". A collaboration which at first seemed to do him and his career more harm than good, till the soundtrack got leaked and loved by the public. Recently in a legalisation wave Chavoshi was one of the three Mohsens who received a legal permit and subsequently his legal debut "Ye Shaakhe Niloofar" was released (for a more detailed account please visit the archive of my blog). In "Ye Shaakhe Niloofar" Chavoshi has composed all pieces himself and worked with Mohammad Reza Ahari as the sole arranger. The lyrics of the album are written by Amir Arjeyni, Hossein Safa, Eslam Vali Mohammadi and one by the singer himself. The 12-track album is released on Barbad Music, which has lately been in trouble with the authorities because of their website. According to the label the album has so far (three weeks after its release) sold 400.000 copies of the 500.000 printed in the first run!

The album opens with the title-track, which is a TECHNO oriented song. The euphoric part of the “Ye Shaakhe Niloofar” is the chorus which musically clashes with the mournful ornamentation of Chavoshi. There is a part at the bridge where the man's technically unveiled voice is exposed and you can clearly hear the difference!

Next comes a mid-tempo ballad called "Kojaast? Begoo!". The song has an interesting arrangement which plays with CLASSIC, ROCK and ELECTRO genres!

We know that Kourosh Yaghmaei is an idol of Chavoshi’s and a source of inspiration, something we can clearly hear in "Tabrik"! This song is yet another refreshing fusion musically, where TRADITIONAL and MODERN elements are mixed in chunky yet compatible parts.

Another question mark in the track listing! "Cheraa" is an upbeat track where Ahari beautifully experiments with the arrangement and various branches of ELECTRONICA.

Chavoshi has said that it has been his and Ahari's intention to include at least one Iranian instrument in each track, something which we clearly hear opening "Gholleye Khoshbakhti"! Its another mid-tempo ballad with a gorgeous arrangement.

"Haftehaaye Talkhe Man" is the only track which's lyrics have been written by Chavoshi himself and naturally the main track which he says he can relate to thematically! The song is a rather successful melange of ELECTRONICA and the only track where the vocals are well-arranged and balanced. It doesn't sound as if he is singing through his teeth somewhere down a well! And I just love the addition of the wailing towards the end.

Next comes "Khaakestar", a ROCK oriented song with a rather subtle and modest arrangement. We know for a fact that Chavoshi is going to attend to SOFT ROCK in his next album so this track might give a sample of what's to come!

This song will surprise some fans with its positive vibe and the fact that it stays so throughout! "Naaz" offers yet another crisp arrangement with its fusion of TRADITIONAL Iranian instrumentation and ELECTRONICA musicality.

Opening large and epic "To Ke Nisti" soon develops into another ROCK oriented song with a more conservative arrangement and long passages.

"Deltangi" picks up the fusion in a rather interesting way. Blending ETHNIC and FOLK in a NEW AGE style ballad with a ROCK undertone.

Next track doesn't deviate much from its predecessor in terms of style, though "Boghz" features minor details which differentiate.

And the album closes with "Asaa", a rather suitable song for the purpose. HARMONY POP and SOFT ROCK a la Siavash Ghomayshi!

Before we embark further on the synthesis, I should make it clear that I belong to the "minority" of listeners who has never been charmed nor convinced by Mohsen Chavoshi as an artist! Even though Chavoshi pretentiously claims that the voice heard on the albums is his actual voice, sounding old and out of tune due to a "scar" in his voice, with only an applied echo, its by far one of the most contrived and manufactured vocals I've personally heard! Its hollow to the point of being almost humanoid! Manipulated naturally and technically! And you can hear the difference clearly in some of the songs released few years ago in a leaked collection called "Moteassefam" where his voice sounds completely different than it does in songs prior and after that. He sounds younger and higher! And Chavoshi blaming this difference on the fact that those were leaked unfinished demos does actually indirectly confirm the severe manipulation of the voice on the finished products, if anything! Many have argued that its not his actual voice, according to 40cheragh, and that's why he has declined the invitations to concerts so far! He says that he is perhaps the best LIVE performer ever and he will one day prove that its his own voice, but he is not ready for the time being!

Like many former undergrounders Chavoshi too tends to contradict himself far too often in interviews and presents himself as a reluctant star and misunderstood victim of circumstances! Whether one chooses to believe these explanations or not, the crying voice of this "phantom of the underground" in a combination with dark lyrical themes and musical melancholia has managed to touch and convince many listeners so far. He was arguably the front-figure of one particular branch of the underground movement which came years ago and revolted against the poetic conventionalism in our music and society. But now those themes are regretted and gone, according to the newly socially-enlightened Chavoshi, who regards revenge and suicidal themes as the biggest mistakes of his career. But will his popularity prevail these changes of legal statues and lyrical themes? And on top of that the musical cross-over to ROCK which is about to take place in the next album? It remains to be seen! "Ye Shaakhe Niloofar" is reportedly not the music of today's Chavoshi, but rather yesterday's! Its also commercially manufactured in order to address a larger crowd than his usual. As a consequence the legal debut will most likely disappoint more than it will attract. Technically the production sets the bar high, both musically and aesthetically, and the cover design is perhaps the most thought-though concept ever used for an Iranian album! To me “Ye Shaakhe Niloofar” is an incredibly REFRESHING album, perhaps the BEST ALBUM of the year! However ONLY musically! Its arrangements are brilliant and extraordinary experimental, presenting Mohammad Reza Ahari as a true visionary and putting him on the star map! “Ye Shaakhe Niloofar” is for Ahari's career what "Gharibe" was for Behrouz Saffarian!

Having said that I must admit that reviewing this album has perhaps been the most challenging task I have taken on in these past decade that I've been active as a critic! Mainly due to the huge gap that is between my personal subjective point of view and the position of an objective analyst. As the former I cant' stand to hear this “voice” in more than minutes, mainly because of its dynamics, whether natural or digital, are harsh and unpleasant to my ears. Also my personal contempt for everything that is thoroughly depressive and mournful, which this album despite some of its musical styles is to me, due to its vocals. One long "zekre mosibat" and almost religious style of wallowing in misery, which subliminally drives one to the outer ledge rather than lift the spirit! But as the latter (critic) I realise and acknowledge the mass appeal and broad base that this voice and music has in our society and the cultural chord that it strikes! Something which I consider phenomenal due to its defying of several canonical laws and norms of the art and market, I find it very interesting to explore and analyse. So yes, there is a conflict between the person and critic within me regarding Chavoshi and his music. I have tried to narrow the gap between them but cant manage that with neither taste nor device! Something which makes the task Herculean but not necessarily impossible. Ultimately, as I've always said and stressed, its up to each one to listen to the music and build an own opinion! Both of mine you have as mere companions.

Note: thanks to Mansour J.

Overall Performance: ++
Artistic Ambition: +++
Commercial Potential: +++
Technical Quality: ++
Aesthetic Presentation: +++
Ethical Adherence: +++
[ +++ > --- ]

Review by: Pourya E.

Reviews described herein are mere opinions, and must be construed in that manner only! In other words they are not absolute!